Spinal canal stenosis and back pain

This article is by our osteopath in Islington and looks at how spinal canal stenosis causes back pain. This article covers:

• What is spinal canal stenosis
• How does it cause back pain
• Causes of spinal stenosis
• Trapped nerves and spinal canal stenosis
• Signs and symptoms of spinal canal stenosis
• Cauda equina syndrome

What is spinal canal stenosis

Spinal canal stenosis occurs when the diameter of the spinal foramina is reduced and this can then ‘choke’ the spinal nerves. This is most common in the lumbar spine but it can occur in the cervical spine where it is a lot more serious.

Spinal stenosis can result in ischaemic stenosis where it impacts upon the blood supply to the legs on activity and/or neurogenic claudication which can cause pain in the nerves in the lower limb. This pain is different from the pain down the back of the leg due to sciatica or a pinched or trapped nerve.

How does it cause back pain

As the spinal canal slowly narrows the nerves slowly get pinched. The most common reason for this is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This is commonly due to a decrease in intervertebral disc height and hypertrophy of the ligamentum flavum.

Causes of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is most common in the over 50’s but it and can occur due to a number of conditions other than age:

• Congenital
• Degenerative changes and arthritis
• Hyperparathyroidism
• Paget’s disease
• Ankylosing spondylitis
• Cushings syndrome
• Acromegaly

Signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis often presents with back pain and leg pain. There is also often numbness into the legs. Spinal stenosis is often worse on walking and it is often described as cramping and tiredness into the legs. This cramping often disappears on rest or when the knees are brought up to the chest in the foetal position as the tension of the nerve roots is reduced.

Cauda equina syndrome

This is the most serious manifestation of spinal stenosis and it occurs in the lumbar spine.

The spinal cord ends near the first lumbar vertebra in the low back. At this point it forms the conus medullaris. The bundle of nerve roots below the conus medullaris is named the cauda equina . Compression of of these nerve roots can cause symptoms of pain, change to reflexes, decreased muscle strength, and decreased sensation.

Cauda equina syndrome is considered a surgical emergency because if left untreated it can lead to permanent loss of bowel and bladder control and paralysis of the legs.

Other relevant articles for back pain

What is spondylitis and why does it cause back pain

Back pain caused by facet joint injury

Back pain and sciatica

What is a slipped disc?

what is the 'pop' from your back when you have oteopathic treatment

Back pain in pregnancy

Wil your acute episode of low back pain become chronic low back pain

If you have back pain and you are in Islington osteopathy at the Angel Osteopathic Clinic may help. Click below to make and appointment.



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